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I was waiting in the chippy by my school to buy my lunch. I had just bought a bunch of stuff for my history club’s Christmas party so my hands were full. The salespeople were busy trying to meet a big order and the shop was otherwise empty. I had time so I didn’t mind waiting. Then, a man of about 45-50 came in a stood next to me, a little closer than is comfortable. So I moved away. And he moved close to me again. He lent close to my ear and whispered ‘what’s a fine young African goddess like you doing in here?’. I looked down and kept my mouth shut. He told me not to be so shy and commented that I must be a ‘freak between the sheets’ and grabbed my butt. I told him to stop touching me, but he wouldn’t. The salespeople were still busy so, instead of making a scene, I decided to just leave. When I looked back he was still leering at me. As soon as I got back I dumped my stuff, ran to the bathroom and cried. It probably should not have bothered me so much but I felt awful and violated. This is the second time I’ve been groped (outside a pub/club) this year and the umpteenth time I’ve been leered at or had my body (and usually race) commented on. I just wonder what I did to deserve this kind of treatment. I know I’m not the only black girl to suffer from this, but it just doesn’t seem fair or just to me.
I’m a twenty year old, five foot three, one hundred twenty pound girl, and I don’t dress to blend into a crowd. I have a shock of platinum blonde hair styled in a mohawk, and I love my eyeshadow heavy, dramatic and smokey. I wear skinny jeans and skintight leggings and tanktops to reveal the tattoo on my right upper arm. I’ve got a bold form of self-expression, and I expect it to draw attention to me. But that doesn’t validate harassment, unwanted sexual attention and even outright hostility, least of all when I’m in the driver’s seat of my vehicle.
Which brings me to my story. There I was, taking a drive on the highway. My windows were rolled down. The music was blaring. I was having a good time. All of a sudden, I notice a blue van approaching my car fast from my rear view mirror. An unmarked police vehicle? No way, I thought, glancing at my speedometer: I’m travelling five miles under the speed limit. (Lame, I know.)
The van pulled up alongside me and the passenger side window rolled down. There was a man in the driver’s seat. He looked to be in his forties. He kind of looked like a skinnier, coked-out Maury Povich in dark sunglasses. He yelled over the wind whipping against our cars. At first I couldn’t make it out, so I turned down the volume on my radio, still suspecting an off-duty cop. No such luck.
“Hey babe, where you off to?”
“Goin’ my way, sugar?”
“Need some gas? I’ll hook you up.”
Unbelievable. This complete stranger pulled up alongside my car on the highway to flirt with me.
Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I don’t think it’s a stretch for a guy who thinks it’s okay to flirt with me while I’m in my car and presumably going somewhere to, say, sideswipe me or brake-check me to force me to pull over. So, I immediately merged into the lane to my right and picked up speed to hide behind an opportunely placed sixteen-wheeler. I noticed him keeping speed with it, expecting me to pass it so we could resume our conversation. He eventually got the hint, however, and sped off in the distance.
I’ve had my ass smacked, my waist grabbed, my hair played with, and very creepy, unwanted comments made toward me by complete strangers before, but nothing compares to that kind of desperate horniness backed by several tons of steel and horsepower confronting you unawares on a typical afternoon drive.
A few months ago, I was in Paris on a school trip. We were on the RER (metro) traveling to Versailles and the tube was packed, so packed I couldn’t even see any of my friends or teachers. All through the journey there had been a man staring and smiling at me. Then, about five minutes before I was due to get off, I felt something brush against my butt. I ignored it. Then I felt a hand close around my butt cheek. That man was still staring and smiling, but he had an almost hungry gleam in his eye. His hand was all over my butt and I didn’t know what to do. Normally I’m a confident young woman who is far from afraid of speaking my mind but then, I froze up. I barely speak any French and I didn’t want to cry out. Thankfully, I got off before things got unbearable.
I didn’t tell anyone for weeks afterwards because I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed because, even though I felt dirty and violated, a small part of me was flattered. One small, dark part of my brain was flattered that someone could find me attractive, even in the most base, perverted sense. Not only that, I but felt as though it wasn’t a big deal, that it didn’t matter. Even now I don’t know why I’m sharing this, because in the grand scheme of harassment it’s pretty insignificant.
I don’t know I’ve let it affect me so much. For weeks afterwards I shuddered a little when my boyfriend touched me and to this day I get apprehensive when I get on packed buses and trains in not-so-sunny Liverpool. I feel weak, and I feel stupid because I can’t get passed one little bit of sexual harassment.
I am a 22 year old women working as a geologist in the mining industry, in northern Ontario, Canada. I experience sexual harassment on a consistent basis. I have been cat called on the walk from my car to the office. I have been blocked access to my car by an employee in a truck, because I was a women, and the man I have never met before wanted to ask me out. This person has continued to stop me at work and bother me. On a related note, former coworkers have accused me of only being promoted because my boss “had the hots for me”, instead of for the hard work that I do. The list goes on. The latest, and most serious instance I have experienced was Friday night at my company Christmas party. After being introduced to the CEO, he continued to thank me for working hard for the company, and that he is happy there are more women. He went on to tell me how men really like it when women are my height (he was refering to the fact that I had taken off my high heel shoes). He told me that men also really like girls with curves like me. He kept asking me if he could buy me a drink- which I refused. He also went on to tell me how he really wants to have a slow dance with me, and grabbed my lower back, but said that since he is the CEO, and there were too many people there, so that he could only fast dance with me. I also refused. He said many things along this line, and finally I managed to get out of talking to him when someone else came up to us and I made my out to the bathroom. I walked away from it very upset, and told a male friend of mine what had happened. His response… “Get used to it, it’s a part of the mining industry and you know what you were getting yourself into.” Unfortunately the response didn’t surprise me at all. Sexual harassment is a widely accepted part of the mining industry. My friend also told me, that in my lifetime I will never see it change. I’m taking that as a challenge, and will try my best to promote equality and respect of people of all gender in industry.
One of the first times I experienced street harassment around the age of 12. Shouted at as I walked along the road by men in a car.
I was sitting in a couch studying at Starbucks the other evening. I noticed that there was a man sitting across from me who would stare at me with his mouth open until i looked up from my book and he would look away. I tried to ignore this strange behavior but when I glanced up the next time I noticed he was pleasuring himself through his pants while staring at me. I was horrified and scared. I grabbed my things and asked to talk to the manager of the Starbucks. I told her what was happening and that I didn’t feel safe to stay or to leave for fear that he’d follow me. She asked me to sit down and that she’d deal with it. I sat and a few moments later she brought me a calm tea and advised that I wait until he leaves to leave myself. This is a sadly accurate metaphor for the cultural response to street harassment: chamomile tea and changing your own behavior. I’d rather hollaback!
The other day I was at a local pub with my two best guy friends having a pint and enjoying each others company when this group of 6 guys at a table near by started cat calling me. It was really distracting and hard to simply ignore. They were talking loudly together about what I would be like in bed etc. They were certainly using me to try to provoke my guy friends. My friends could tell that I was upset but didn’t want to start a fight – so we left. I was really upset after not because my friends didn’t fight them but because there was nothing that I could do or say. I was upset because they treated me like an object and I felt like one.
I am a student at UMass Amherst and am now 21. I have been accosted on this street several times. This is pretty shocking considering how open minded, feminist, and family friendly this town is and considering the fact that this is the town center, where the town feels the safest. I have a few stories from the past couple years and thought I would share them in one post rather than a few.
I also want to point out that while some of these stories are about homeless men harassing me, this is not representative of most homeless men and women in this area. I have had friendly and respectful exchanges with people who are homeless in Amherst and the stories following are about the few who, despite their situation, were incredibly disrespectful to me as a woman and made me feel unsafe. This is not due to their circumstances. This is due to their behavior.
The first of these stories is from a few years ago. I was a freshman and on a bus to visit home. We stopped in Amherst Center and a man got on the bus and sat beside me. He smelled pretty terrible, but I didn’t want to be rude so I just breathed through my mouth and tried to be polite. I don’t know if he was homeless or what, but I figured he wasn’t dangerous, that I was safe in the front seat of a bus. He had some food with him (the smell of it wafted to me, it wasn’t my taste) and offered me some. I smiled and politely declined but thanked him for offering. A couple minutes later, I felt his hand snaking its way between my legs and up my thigh. I immediately tensed up and said (pretty loudly) “WHAT are you doing?” He stopped, took his hand back and got off at the next stop.
The second was a year later in my sophomore year. It was on Halloween night and I was on a date with a girl I liked. Some pretty hilarious things happened earlier in the night with guys yelling after me (in a harmless and nonsexual way) since I was dressed as Wonder Woman and running to catch a bus with my cape billowing out behind me. Some cars literally stopped and I heard things like, “GREAT SCOTT! IT’S WONDER WOMAN!” To which I would start laughing hysterically. The girl I was out with was dressed as Catwoman. We were holding hands near the end of the night and walking down the street toward her place. The streets were packed with drunk and happy college students as well as sober and serious (but slightly entertained) police officers keeping things safe. We were hand in hand and I was wary of those around us. Suddenly, a guy ran up beside us and matched our pace.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hi.” my date said.
“What are you girls up to?”
“Just walking” my date said and stared straight ahead.
“I like your costumes. I’m going to a thing in Central. Is that where you live? Central?”
We didn’t respond.
“Well, it’s a party. I mean, it should be fun. Do you two wanna come with me?”
“No thanks,” my date said, “I’m with her.”
“Ok, cool cool. So, what are you two gonna be up to? I’m (forgot the name) by the way. So, what are you two gonna be doing?”
By this point, we were trying to outwalk him.
“Just hanging out.” my date replied, walking faster.
He ran to keep up with us.
“You guys walk fast! So what building are you going to? In Central, right?” he said, losing his breath.
“We walk fast when we’re being bothered by someone and want to lose them.” one of us said (I can’t remember who).
The guy slowed down, saying, “What? but. Oh.”
I think he said something else, I don’t remember, but it freaked us both out a bit.
The third was on the same street. It was about one in the morning. the street was almost empty, it was a weekend, and it was very well lit. I was made-up and walking back from a party for the LGBT group on campus. Three guys walked behind me, about my age. They were talking among themselves, but I immediately became wary of their presence, seeing as there was almost no one else on the street. I was walking quickly with my head up, and did not face them once during the following encounter. I was very clearly trying to keep to myself. One of the guys ran up to me (Not cool to do that to a woman who is walking alone in the middle of the night).
“Hey” he said.
I didn’t reply or look at him. I kept walking and he matched my speed. He tried a few more times to grab my attention. I ignored him some more until he straight up asked me if I was angry.
“Yes.” I replied.
“Why?” he asked.
At this point, I was very nervous about the fact that there was one strange man next to me and two flanking me from behind on an empty street at one in the morning.
“I’m angry because I’m being bothered by someone when I just want to get back to my room.” I said, still not looking at him.
“I didn’t mean to bother you, I just think you’re very attractive and wanted to meet you.” he said in the most friendly tone he could manage.
“Great. I’m flattered, but I just want to walk alone. And frankly, I’m a little creeped out.”
“Because a man I don’t know is bothering me in the middle of the night when I’m walking alone. That’s why.”
“Oh! You don’t have to be nervous with me, I’m an RA, you can trust me.”
“Yeah, ok, just leave me alone. I’m not interested. I’m coming back from an lgbt dance. I’m not into guys. Sorry.”
” Oh yeah, that’s fine. I’m an RA, so I have residents who are gay or trans. I’m totally cool with it. Where are you headed?”
I didn’t respond.
“We’re headed up the hill to my apartment. Are you headed to Puffton?”
I stayed silent and kept walking.
“Sylvan? Do you live in Sylvan? That’s on our way, you know.”
I stayed quiet and walked faster.
“Hey! Where are you goi–”
I interrupted him and yelled, “Leave me the F**K alone.”
He put his hands up and backed off.
He went up the hill that I was supposed to go up. I had to take the long way to avoid him and his friends. Easily the scariest encounter.
The last was during the day. I was walking down the street and saw a man with a can out to collect change. I grabbed some change I had left and dropped it in and smiled at him. Most people in Amherst know or at least recognize the homeless men and women in town, so I wanted to be friendly. He leaned toward me and said something to the effect of, “What would I have to do for a date?” I rolled my eyes, made a grossed out face, said, “Gross” and walked off.
These things happened on North Pleasant Street, which goes through Amherst Center and into the UMass campus. It is normally pretty crowded with college, high school, middle school, and elementary school students as well as several local families. These incidents made me feel incredibly unsafe in this otherwise very friendly and small community. No one stepped in during any of these encounters. I was even driving down this street recently when I stopped at a light and a PVTA bus pulled up next to me. I looked up at the driver, I kind looking grey haired man, and smiled politely. He smirked and winked at me in a surprisingly sleazy way. I made a disgusted expression and he smiled wider, staring at me until the light changed. That still makes me really angry.
This story happened a couple months ago. I was walking home from a friends house in the dark. I live near a busy commercial street in an “artsy” neighborhood. As I got near the end of the street a guy – in his teens or twenties – started shouting at me, “hey baby girl” and “can I get your number” etc. I ignored it because he was on the other side of the street. Then he ran across the street and was walking behind me and I was really scared.
I didn’t know what to do and I saw a girl walk up to the corner, and I decided it didn’t matter who she was I was going to tell her this guy was following me and walk with her. It ended up being a girl that I am acquainted with, she told me to walk with her to the drug store which was out of my way but I followed. The guy was still talking to me and I said “you need to go away” “don’t talk to me” and she told him to leave us alone too.
We went inside the store and when we came out I didn’t see him anymore. I was still nervous so I called my friend and he rode his bike to meet me and walk the rest of the way home with me.
This I was walking around the same corner and in broad daylight a man was standing on his apartment balcony and shouting “hey baby” and I looked over and he was rubbing his penis under his shorts and waving at me. I didn’t even know what to do. I just walked away. I’m so disgusted.
I was riding the commuter rail on the way back from a function in Boston. I’ve taken the rail several times before and typically put my headphones in and write songs or poetry and put my purse or my legs on the rest of the seat to ensure my personal space. The day this happened, the train was very crowded and the only seats free were on the sideways seats, one row facing the other.
I was listening to music and writing a song in my notebook when I noticed a couple boys (about 18ish, maybe early 20s) staring at me. I tried to ignore them and write, but they kept staring. Finally, I heard one start shouting at me.
I ignored him.
“Hey! What are you writing. Hey! C’mon. Tell me.”
This continued a few more minutes. Not one man or woman on that train stepped in. I rolled my eyes and responded very calmly.
“I’m writing a song about castration. Why?”
The boys looked a bit shocked to say the least. I kept a straight face and stared them down until they lowered their eyes to the floor. I noticed a couple people around me smirking to themselves.
Needless to say, they didn’t bother me the rest of the train ride.
Also, for the record, the song I was writing was not about castration.